[ot] cult influence and power, 1988-2018
Undiscussed Groomed for Male Slavery, One Victim of Many
gmkarl+brainwashingandfuckingupthehackerslaves at gmail.com
Sat Oct 1 17:05:32 PDT 2022
Chapter 9–How to Help
If someone you care about becomes a member of a destructive cult,
you will probably find yourself facing one of the toughest situations
of your life. In helping this person return to their authentic self,
it’s easy to fall into mistakes that will make your job even harder.
But if you respond to the challenge in a planned, emotionally balanced
way, the chances are good that your efforts will ultimately be
successful. The experience will also be very rewarding and joyful.
That is what I have seen time and time again in the families I’ve
This chapter will give you some basic, practical ideas of what to
do and not do when trying to help a cult member leave their group. It
will also explain what to do for yourself and other members of your
family while involved in this effort. Taking a few basic precautions
can save you a lot of frustration.
The best place to start is with two contrasting examples—one
leading to success, the other to failure. The two stories that follow
are composites, based on real people I have counseled. To protect
their privacy, all of the people’s names have been changed.
The Johnson Family and the Twelve Tribes
When Bill and Lorna Johnson first noticed that their daughter
Nancy was acting strangely, they simply wrote it off as the growing
pains of a 19-year-old girl away from home for the summer. Her older
brother Neil had gone through his own share of episodes of strange
behavior, when he was about the same age.
Nancy was then in Milwaukee, selling magazine subscriptions door
to door to earn extra money for college. Bill and Lorna knew she was
experiencing a slump in sales. Yet when she explained her difficulties
with her job to them in a phone call, she surprised them by sounding
emotionally cool, as though she didn’t have a care in the world.
Knowing Nancy was a go-getter, Bill and Lorna expected their daughter
to sound frustrated and anxious. Something wasn’t right, but they
couldn’t put a finger on it.
Several weeks later they received a telephone call from Leslie,
one of Nancy’s close friends. Leslie told Bill and Lorna that she had
just received a disturbing letter from Nancy. Leslie had hesitated
before calling them—she didn’t want to betray Nancy’s confidence. But
the content of the letter was so unlike Nancy that she felt she had to
risk alienating her friend.
The letter read, in part: “I have truly found my place in the
world, Leslie. God has summoned me to be part of the Twelve Tribes,
the only true Christians on Earth. I have thrown away my blue jeans,
for I realize that they were part of my Satanic past…A woman’s place
is beneath a man…the Word of God says so, and I am learning to destroy
this vain ego of mine that longs to be part of this wicked world…I’m
now living with the most holiest [sic] and most wonderful people on
Nancy’s favorite clothes had always been her jeans. She had always
been easy to get along with, because she was so nonjudgmental. Also,
she had been something of a feminist. Such subservient sentiments were
highly uncharacteristic of her. All these things bothered Leslie.
Nancy’s parents were even more disturbed because Nancy had
apparently been hiding her involvement with the Tribes from them. Why
hadn’t Nancy even mentioned this group to them? She had always been
open and honest with them before. Whenever they asked her what was
new, she had answered, “Not much.” From her letter, a great deal
seemed to be new.
The Johnsons immediately phoned to ask their minister’s advice. He
came right over. He agreed that Nancy was indeed acting strangely, and
suggested that maybe she had become involved in a religious cult. At
the mention of the word “cult,” the Johnsons began to panic. At this
point, Bill came close to making a typical mistake. His first impulse
was to call Nancy and confront her about the group, her letter to
Leslie and her secrecy. Fortunately, he didn’t.
Lorna started to sob uncontrollably. She felt she had failed as a
parent. Something must have been lacking in Nancy’s life that would
allow her to join a cult. Lorna began to mentally review every
significant incident in Nancy’s life that might have made her so
susceptible. She decided to ask her son Neil to drop whatever he was
doing and come over.
When Neil walked into the living room an hour later, his father
was pacing back and forth, his mother was still in tears, Leslie was
sitting near her on the sofa with her hands clasped on her lap, and
the minister was standing next to the TV, with a bewildered expression
on his face. “What’s going on here?” Neil asked as he sat down and put
his arm around his mother.
Lorna said, “We think Nancy has gotten into some type of religious cult.”
“Nancy? Never. No way! She would never fall for something like
that.” Then his parents told him everything they knew. He was
Fortunately, the minister was able to persuade the Johnsons to do
nothing for the moment. He assured them that he would do his best to
try to find more information about the Twelve Tribes, and find advice
about the best approach to take.
Through the minister’s research and connections, he found my name
and telephone number and gave them to the family. They called me the
following day. I had them fill out my questionnaire, and we had
several more phone discussions.
As soon as we were able to get enough concrete information, the
Johnsons asked their friends and relatives to come over the next
Saturday, to be part of a two-day counseling and training program. I
advised them to try to get as much help and support as they could
find. I was able to arrange for a former Tribes member in another city
to make a video describing as much as he could remember about the
group, its leaders, its beliefs and its practices. With this as the
foundation, we were able to make a plan.
Since Nancy and her fellow Twelve Tribes members were unaware that
her family knew about her involvement, it was relatively easy to
surprise her. The family agreed that we would all fly to Milwaukee the
following week, where a former member would join us.
We staked out the cult house the morning after we arrived, and
waited for Nancy to leave. We figured that it would be much easier to
talk with her if she was off the group’s property and away from other
Within a couple of hours, she and another woman got into a station
wagon and drove off. We followed them to a supermarket, in a nearby
shopping mall. After they went inside, I coached the Johnsons on what
to say and do. The plan was to try to wait until Nancy was by herself,
if possible. At that point, they were to walk right up to her and give
her a big hug and immediately invite her to lunch. They would also
tell her that they needed to discuss some very urgent family
business—and nothing more. We counted on Nancy being totally
surprised. Since she hadn’t told her family about the group, it would
be more difficult for her to resist their insistent invitation to go
out to eat. They would be affectionate and friendly, but firm. Neil
would make sure that the other woman would not interfere with their
I watched from a short distance away. Nancy put up no resistance
at all. She seemed really happy to see her family, yet very shocked
and confused. When Nancy said, “Let me go tell Claire,” Neil
volunteered to do that, and walked toward the store.
“I think she’s in the produce department,” Nancy called out to him.
“Don’t worry,” Neil said as he looked back. His parents were
already walking toward the car, arm in arm with Nancy.
Neil waited inside the store for a minute and then came running
out. “She said fine,” Neil told her as he got into the car.
I took a cab back to the hotel and waited in the second room we
had taken next door, until the family was ready for me. Meanwhile, I
reported what had happened to Alexis, the former Tribes member.
We didn’t have to wait long. As instructed, the Johnsons waited
until they were settled in their room before telling Nancy that they
had flown out because they were concerned about the group she was
involved with. At first Nancy denied any involvement. Then Mr. Johnson
produced her letter to Leslie. As Bill told me later, her face turned
beet red and she started to cry.
“Why did you lie to us?” Bill asked sternly. “That’s not like you,
honey,” Mrs. Johnson added. More tears from Nancy.
“We’re here because we love you and we’re worried about you,” Neil
said, wiping his own tears away.
“Why don’t you tell us all about it?” Bill asked. “Start from the
Nancy recounted what had happened. At first she seemed her normal
self, but after a few minutes her personality changed. Her face took
on a faraway expression, and she started quoting from the Bible and
Lorna asked Nancy if, deep down in her heart, she loved them and
trusted them. She thought for a moment and said, “Yes.”
“Will you stay with us for the next three days, and not talk to
Claire or see anyone from the group during that time?” Lorna asked.
“Why?” Nancy wanted to know.
“Because there’s important information we think you’ll want to
hear. We’ve arranged for some people to come to share what they know
with you. We want you to think for yourself about what we’ll discuss,
without any interference.”
Nancy thought about it for what must have seemed like an eternity.
She wanted to know who these people were and why it had to be for
Bill said, “Honey, you can find out for yourself. They’re waiting
next door. All that we ask is that you trust us, and that you give
them a chance to tell you facts the group might not want you to hear.”
Nancy listened eagerly, once she saw that everyone was sincere and
that we didn’t have horns on our foreheads. She was immensely grateful
for all the concern and love shown to her. She had had her doubts
about the group but, like most new cult members, thought that she just
wasn’t spiritual enough to question or analyze what the older members
Within two days, the Twelve Tribes’ hold on her was broken, and
she returned to her old life.
Why the Johnsons Succeeded
Even though their daughter had been recruited into a destructive
cult, the Johnsons were very fortunate. First, since they talked with
Nancy weekly, they were able to notice some of the changes in her
voice and personality very early on. They instinctively knew that they
should stay in close touch, because Nancy was young, halfway across
the country, and experiencing great stress in her sales work. While
the Johnsons could have made sure that Nancy knew about destructive
cults before she left, they didn’t realize that the problem could
affect anyone, even a member of their family. Furthermore, once they
understood the techniques and effects of mind control, they were able
to move quickly toward constructive solutions. They did not allow
their initial guilt, and their fear that they had failed as parents,
to undermine them.
Leslie turned out to be a hero. She overcame her fear of angering
Nancy and acted like a true friend, by contacting her parents. Because
she had done so, the Johnsons were able to quickly identify and
resolve the problem. As soon as Nancy was out of the group, she
thanked Leslie profusely.
The Johnsons were also quite fortunate in getting good advice from
their minister, who quickly came to their aid. Not only did he help
them to put a finger on the problem, but also he was able to keep them
from making any of the classic mistakes. Unlike most clergy, their
minister had attended a workshop on cults, earlier that year. He knew
that the family should not do anything rash or confrontational. He
also knew that it was not wise for them to try to rationally discuss
the cult issue with their daughter, without guidance from cult
experts. He understood that Lorna and Bill needed to slow down and
make a plan with those experienced and skilled enough to do it
The Marlowes and The Way International
Roger and Kitty Marlowe were not as fortunate as the Johnsons.
Their son Henry was recruited into The Way, a Bible cult, while he was
away at college. They noticed some very drastic changes in his
personality and his disposition, but for the most part they thought
those changes had been quite positive. Henry had stopped swearing, and
he told them that he had given up smoking and drinking. When they came
to visit him on parents’ day, they were delighted to see his dormitory
room so neat, and that his once-favorite magazine, _Playboy_, was
Henry introduced his parents to several of his friends from the
group. They thought it was odd that he had become so religious. He had
never before expressed an interest in religion. On the whole, though,
Kitty and Roger were impressed by many of the people in the
fellowship. They seemed to be well-groomed, were obviously
intelligent, came from apparently good homes, and were very friendly.
The Marlowes didn’t even think to investigate The Way. On the surface,
it seemed fine.
They did become concerned when they saw their son’s grades at the
end of that semester. Henry’s A minus average had plummeted to a C
plus. When they confronted him about his grades, Henry was very
defensive. He told them he was doing the best he could, but he felt he
had gotten really bad teachers that term. Besides, he was thinking of
changing his major. Marketing no longer interested him. He wanted to
become a religious studies major.
Henry had always been a headstrong, independent kid. His parents
reasoned that he knew what he was doing. Of course, they also wanted
him to be able to support himself. Yet, if he was feeling a spiritual
calling, who were they to question it? He was an adult, almost 20
Another semester came and went, and still the Marlowes didn’t
quite understand what was going on. Henry did manage to pull his
grades up to a B average—which was still well below what he had
achieved in the past.
That summer, Henry told his parents that he was planning to go to
Kansas for a “once-a-year gathering of believers.” However, once he
was there, he phoned to say that he had felt “called by the Lord” to
take a leave from college. He was going to make a one-year commitment
to go wherever The Way sent him, take a part-time job to cover
expenses, and evangelize at least 20 hours a week.
Roger was infuriated. “Why don’t you finish your senior year and
then evangelize?” he said with considerable irritation.
Henry got angry at his father’s tone of voice. “Because, Dad, I
feel like this is the right thing for me to do! Please, Dad, I want
your support on this.”
Henry’s mother had been listening on another phone. She said, “Why
don’t you come home and we can discuss this?”
“Mom, trust me. I know what I’m doing.”
Roger and Kitty could now hear mumbling on the line. It sounded as
though someone was standing next to Henry, coaching him.
“Is there someone telling you what to say?” his father demanded.
“What?” Henry asked.
“Is there someone there telling you what to say to us?” his father repeated.
“Uh, er, no,” Henry stammered.
“Son, have you been sucked into one of those religious cults?”
“We’re a Bible research and teaching fellowship,” Henry said in a
defensive tone, repeating the words as though he were reading them
from a brochure.
“I want you to come home right now, young man!” his father
ordered. “If you don’t, I’ll never respect you again,” he threatened.
“Now calm down, Roger. Henry, your father is very upset. Henry,
you’re not in a cult, are you?”
“No, Mom, of course not,” Henry answered.
“You see, Roger, Henry’s not in a cult,” Kitty said, as if
repeating these words would magically make them true.
Henry did not return home to discuss anything with his parents.
Instead, he went to St. Louis to work for the group, recruiting other
members for The Way. He asked his parents to put some of his
belongings in boxes, and they shipped them off to him as he requested.
They even sent him $500 in cash to help him get started.
Henry’s father was disgusted. He went to the library, started
making copies of articles that described The Way as a cult, and mailed
them to Henry. He thought these articles would convince Henry to leave
The Way and come home. The move backfired. Henry simply swallowed the
cult’s line that his parents were possessed by the Devil and were not
to be trusted.
Kitty believed that her son was too intelligent to stay in such a
group for very long. She convinced herself that he would soon see his
mistake and walk out.
When months passed and he became more and more distant, she grew
hysterical, loading herself and her husband with guilt.
Henry’s teenage sister Amy and adolescent brother Bernie became
caught up in the emotional upheaval left by Henry. Day after day, they
had to endure their parents’ obsession with Henry’s cult involvement.
Eventually they got angry at Henry for putting the family through this
Time after time, Henry’s parents took turns confronting their son
with new pieces of information they had found about The Way. They told
him that the founder and leader of the group was a plagiarist, who
drank and swore excessively. This information did not deter Henry.
Throughout this time, the Marlowes remained silent with their
friends and relatives about Henry’s cult involvement. Roger was a
state politician and concerned about his career. Kitty felt that
people would think she was a bad parent for her son to be so disturbed
as to join a cult. Whenever friends or relatives asked about him, they
merely said that Henry was fine, had taken a leave of absence from
college, and had decided to work for a while. They were very afraid of
what everyone would think if they told them the truth.
With each passing year, Henry became more and more estranged from
his family. They spoke very infrequently on the phone and wrote only
sporadically. Eventually Henry felt there was no reason to stay in
contact with his family anymore. As far as he was concerned, they were
under Satan’s power.
Lessons To Be Learned
Here are two different families, the Johnsons and the Marlowes,
whose responses to a cult problem were very different. The Johnsons
were able to find out very quickly that something was wrong and
received good advice. The Marlowes were slow to pick up the signs, and
when they did realize that their son was in a cult, they didn’t seek
out help. Roger Marlowe lost a potentially valuable strategic position
by quickly and directly confronting his son and issuing what amounted
to an ultimatum. Some people actually disown children who have fallen
victim to destructive cults. Unfortunately, the mistakes the Marlowes
made are common and happen in the majority of families. In the case of
destructive cults, parents’ impulsive reactions frequently do more
harm than good.
There are several lessons to be learned here. First, any sudden,
uncharacteristic change in a friend or a loved one should be
investigated quickly and thoroughly. If the person is suddenly
spending a good deal of time away, find out why. Ask a lot of
questions—in a non-threatening, reassuring tone, of course. Avoid
wishful thinking. Remember: when people join cults, they often become
deceptive or evasive when questioned about changes in their lives.
If you are concerned, consult with as many of the person’s friends
and relatives as possible. Don’t do what the Marlowes did, and try to
keep the problem hidden. If you do, you will cut yourself off from
very valuable emotional support, as well as possible practical help.
When people delay talking with others or getting help, in the hope
that the person under mind control will magically snap out of it
themselves, the consequences can be disastrous.
If someone you care about appears to have become involved with a
cult, make sure to contact their family—but ask that they _not_ talk
to the person about it yet. Doing so could jeopardize the
relationship. However, if the situation is handled mindfully and
tactfully, the family _and_ the person you care about will ultimately
be grateful for your concern.
Classic Ineffective Responses
Since most people do not understand mind control and the practices
of destructive cults, it is easy for them to act ineffectively, or
The most common problem is that family members typically feel an
_excessive amount of guilt and shame_. People blame themselves because
of their loved one’s cult involvement. This can be one of the greatest
hindrances to positive, effective action. People need to know that
they are not at fault. Cults exist. Mind control exists. A mind
control virus can infect anyone, just as anyone can become infected
with the flu.
Another common problem is that _people neglect their own needs_.
The best way to help someone else is to make sure that you first take
care of your own needs. You need to get enough sleep, food and down
time to stay sane and balanced. You can hurt yourself _and_ your loved
one if you don’t take the time to rest, relax and do other things to
A loved one’s cult involvement also has to be placed in a
manageable perspective. You can do only what is within your capacity
to do. Life has to go on. The Marlowes inadvertently punished their
other children because they devoted too much time and energy to Henry,
all of which they exerted ineffectively.
Another mistake is that people often _emotionally overreact to the
cult involvement_. This can be even more dangerous than doing nothing.
A person can get driven further into a cult by hysterical tirades and
inappropriate uses of words like “cult” and “brainwashing.” Getting
emotionally aggressive with a cult member almost always backfires.
One other common error is _trying to argue the person out of their
cult involvement by using a condescending, confrontational approach_.
This direct approach is doomed to failure. Rational argumentation is
simply not effective with someone who has been indoctrinated through
mind control. Add condescension or arrogance, and you are playing
right into the cult recruiter’s hands.
Similarly, it is important not to blame someone for being
recruited into a cult. Instead, you need to regard what happened as an
example of undue influence. The person you care about has contracted a
mind control virus. Get angry with the cult. Get angry at _all_ mind
control cults. But _don’t get angry with the person who has been
victimized_. It isn’t their fault. I have been told many times by
people who have left cults that they felt psychologically raped. Don’t
do emotional harm a second time by telling them it’s their own fault.
If you want to get even with any mind control group, fine—but
first work to help the person you care about. Then do as much as you
can to expose the group to the general public. Take it to court, if
you have the time, energy and resources. Make sure that you have
competent legal advice from an attorney with experience of the cult
you are dealing with. You should also write to your political
representatives, giving a brief outline of the cult. See if you can
use the law to ensure justice.
Most of all, though, focus on helping the person you care about.
To this end, information and strategy are your two most important
tools. The overall objective should be this: _*Do everything within
your power to create the necessary conditions to help the cult member
_change_ and _grow_.*_ Keep this objective in mind at all times when
deciding what to do or say.
Notice that your objective should _not_ be rescuing the person
from the group. People leave destructive cults as a natural
consequence of changing and growing. If people are focused on positive
growth, there will be less resistance, and everyone’s efforts will be
That said, it is also essential to adopt the consistent attitude
that the person is going to leave the cult. The only questions are
whether they will do so sooner or later, and whether the transition
will be easy and smooth, or difficult and painful. People can do only
that which is within their control to do. People can help to create
the positive conditions necessary to help a person trapped in a cult
to grow so that they can break the shackles of mind control.
The best way for you to help the cult member leave their group is
for you to be adequately prepared to undertake the job. Here are some
ways to make sure that you’re able to handle the stress you’ll
inevitably encounter. Good preparation is the key to success.
Preparing For A Successful Effort
Take Care of Your Own Emotional Needs
Don’t expect instant results. Pace yourself and keep a balanced perspective.
Your efforts to help the person you care about shouldn’t be at the
expense of your (or anyone else’s) health. This is particularly true
if the cult member has been involved for many years, and efforts to
help them are complex and protracted.
One of my clients, from Germany, flew to the United States against
his doctor’s advice to try to see his son in the Moonies. He had a
heart attack and died. Imagine the guilt the son might have
experienced when he found out. Trying to suppress that guilt might
have actually prolonged his cult involvement.
Remember that you are in a kind of war with the cult. As part of
the preparatory process, identify and address everyone’s concerns and
emotional needs. Good individual and family counseling can be
Parents and other family members should try to keep the cult
problem in a balanced perspective. Life for them and their family has
to go on, particularly if the person has been a member for a long
Let me repeat: life has to go on.
Consolidate Your Resources
Following the example of the Johnsons, involve as many family
members and friends in your rescue efforts as you feel comfortable
with. But also help to educate them. Invite them to attend workshops
on cults, undue influence or mind control. Contact knowledgeable
clergy, mental health professionals, former cult members, families who
have had a cult problem, and anyone else who might be able to offer
assistance. When it comes to helping cult members exit their groups,
people can be extremely helpful and generous.
If a family member is very close to the person in a cult, do
everything within your power to involve that person. Countless times,
a brother or sister who had a lot of clout with the cult member has
turned out to be a key player. But also quite often, that person
initially did not want to help with a rescue effort. Either they
didn’t understand mind control or they felt a misplaced loyalty to
their sibling. If necessary, plan a mini-intervention with that person
first. Then, with them on your side, it may well be much easier to
help the cult member exit the group.
Lastly, don’t just consolidate your resources: use them as wisely
as possible. Coordination, teamwork and good communication all combine
Get Organized and Make a Plan
Learn as much as you can. Study the enemy—the specific cult
group—as well as similar cults. Learn how they think and how they
operate. Become knowledgeable about mind control. The more clearly you
understand it, the more easily you will be able to explain it to
others—including, when the time comes, the cult member. Start with the
Freedom of Mind website, freedomofmind.com, which offers a very wide
range of free resources, plus links to other helpful websites.
Keep organized files. Make copies of important articles to share
with everyone concerned. Make copies of every letter written to the
cult member and every letter received from them. These may turn out to
be quite important during or after any rescue effort. I have
frequently shown cult members letters they had written in which they
lied to their families, or made promises that they later broke.
Update everyone concerned regularly. Make sure everyone is on the
same page regarding the cult member.
Consistent communication with the cult member is usually better
than sporadic contact. Send a little card or note once a week, every
week. This is far better than writing a 14-page letter one week and
then missing the next month. Short notes, texts, emails and letters
about home and shared positive experiences are also good. Ask the cult
member to call, whatever the time and wherever they are, if they wish
to talk and do not have their own phone.
Selecting the right counselor is a key step in organizing and
making a plan. They can help you plan, strategize and avoid missteps.
Most cult counselors are very caring and have often helped a
tremendous number of people out of mind control groups.
Above all, be a smart consumer. After the Jonestown tragedy, a
dozen or so con artists calling themselves deprogrammers appeared out
of the woodwork, took advantage of numerous families, and stole their
money. Some of these people were actually cult members themselves,
attempting to give deprogramming a bad name. Be careful.
A person’s claims to be a cult counselor don’t make them one.
Check credentials and references from multiple sources. Check with
several families the person has worked with over the years. Plug their
name into a search engine—and dig deep; don’t just look at what pops
up on the first page. Be careful, as cults and others with a negative
agenda will often post deceptive material about counselors. And trust
your instincts. You have to feel that the _cult member_ will be able
to trust and relate to the counselor as a person.
In my opinion, the best cult counselors are people who were once
cult members themselves. They know what it feels like to be under mind
control. Also, the best counselors have had a lot of experience.
Don’t assume that any good psychotherapist will be helpful. Most
mental health professionals know nothing about helping someone
involved in a cult.
Professional cult counselors charge fees that range from
$500–$2500 per day. Former cult members who assist them receive
between $100 and $300. Usually all reasonable expenses, such as travel
and accommodations, are extra. Although each case is unique, most
rescue efforts are accomplished within three days. The cost usually
lies somewhere between $5,000 and $30,000. After the initial effort,
some follow-up is typically required. This might involve a program at
a rehabilitation center, or it might be as simple and informal as
introducing the ex-cult member to as many other former cult members as
Once you’ve accomplished all the preliminary preparations, it is
important to make one-month, three-month, six-month, and one-year
plans. Although rescue efforts should be undertaken as soon as
possible, they also should not be rushed. Most require weeks or months
of advance planning. In some cases, plans are finalized, but cannot be
put into operation until a good opportunity presents itself.
Keep in mind that arrangements to reserve a professional team are
ideally made several months in advance.
How To Help A Cult Member Change And Grow
It may seem that helping a cult member to go through personal
changes is a long and circuitous way to help them break free of their
group. After all, isn’t it most important to get them away physically
from the people who practice mind control on them?
Actually, no. It is vital to recognize that the only way to get
people permanently out of destructive cults is to help them get back
in touch with their real selves. _This_ is your long-term objective.
Only then can they start growing toward new personal goals that mean
something to them.
While keeping this long-term objective in mind, everyone concerned
with helping a cult member should also focus attention on three
The first is _building rapport and trust_. Without trust, nothing
you do will be effective.
The second is _gathering information_ about how the cult member
thinks, feels, and views reality.
The third is _planting seeds of doubt about the cult and promoting
a new perspective_.
Let’s look more closely at each of these.
Build Rapport and Trust
When you first become aware that someone you care about is a cult
member, act as though you don’t know they are in a cult—unless, of
course, they’ve told you. Don’t tell them that you are studying
counter-cult information or that you have made contact with experts.
If you do, the result will likely be a breakdown of trust.
A _curious yet concerned posture_ is the most effective stance
anyone can take in relating to the cult member. It is relatively easy
to elicit rapport and trust when you are genuinely curious, because
all you are doing is asking questions in a non-judgmental way. Because
you care about the person, you want to know everything that is
important to them.
Show approval and respect for the person, their ideals, their
talents, and their interests. However, be careful to show only
conditional approval of their participation in the cult. Let them know
that you are withholding final judgment on the group, until all the
facts are in. In some cases, it might be appropriate to tell them you
have a feeling in your stomach that something is not right about the
group, but you are not sure. If the cult member tries to give credit
to the group for positive aspects of their life, like no longer using
pot or drinking excessively, tell them you think that is great—but
remind them that you think they deserve the credit for the positive
changes, not the group.
Evaluate your present relationship with the person. Do the two of
you have a great deal of natural rapport and trust? If not, start
thinking about ways you can build or rebuild the relationship.
Remember, the more the person feels connected to people outside of the
cult, the better off they will be. They will always be closer to some
people than others, but everyone should be making a natural effort to
get closer to the person. Coordinate the flow of communication to the
cult member. It wouldn’t seem natural if ten people suddenly e-mailed
them on the same day. Avoid anything that looks too suspicious.
Also do not send the person money, particularly cash, because it
will most likely be turned over to the group. It is far better to send
clothes, pictures, books and other gifts with more personal and
long-lasting meaning. Grandma’s homemade cookies can go a long way
towards reminding the person of their true self and establishing
rapport than a card and a check.
Ask the member what you can do to better understand them or build
your relationship with them. Ask them to be specific. Try your best to
accommodate their needs, but act sensibly. If they ask you to read one
of the group’s books, tell them that you would be willing to do a
swap; ask them to read a book that you recommend. If they tell you
they want you to stop criticizing their group, ask them how you can
communicate your questions and concerns without seeming critical.
People have done many creative things to help build trust and
rapport. They have written poems and short stories, put together
elaborate photo albums, and painted pictures. They have sent shoes,
winter jackets, and tickets to performances that they know the person
will love. I know of several cases where people invited a cult member
to go with them on a trip overseas, during which they were able to
Collect Valuable Information
Once rapport with the cult member is built, it will be much easier
to gather information from them about the cult, their life in it, and
their feelings about it. The more information you collect, the more
you will be able to know what is going on inside their mind.
Communicate as regularly as possible. If you can see each other in
person, do so, and try to do it one-on-one. Unless you are highly
trained, it is very difficult to make much progress while talking to
two or more cult members at a time.
Expect that, at some point, you will be invited to talk with older
members or leaders. Don’t accept this invitation—but also don’t merely
say no. Stall for as long as you can. Tell the person that you care
about them and trust _them_. You’re not interested in talking with
strangers. You want them to explain everything to you. If they say
that they don’t know the answers to some of your questions, you can
gently point out that you are concerned that if they don’t know the
answers, they may have made a commitment to the group before they were
ready to do so. Suggest that they take a step back and spend a few
weeks researching the group. If the group is legitimate, what do they
have to lose?
Information can also help you understand just how fully
indoctrinated the person is. When I was speaking with Bruce, I was
able to ascertain his stage of involvement, so I guessed that to tell
him about the Moon pledge service would be disillusioning for him.
When you know what someone knows and doesn’t know, it makes the
counselor’s job much easier—and increases the chances of success.
Develop Specific Skills to Promote a New Perspective
When you are able to establish good rapport and accumulate a good
deal of information, the last step is actually developing the skills
and strategies to undermine or side step the mind control used by the
group. Too many people try to jump to this step before they have
accomplished the first two. This is a big mistake. Only when you have
laid the groundwork can you really be effective.
Remember that you want to connect with and empower the person’s
real self, not the cult self. Reminding them of earlier positive life
experiences is the most effective way to do this. For example, you
might call the cult member and say, “Hi, it’s Steve. I’ve been meaning
to call for a while. You know, I was down visiting the old school
today, and I remembered when you and I used to go early, so we could
play handball on the school wall. Do you remember the time when the
gym teacher chased us across the field demanding the ball, because we
accidentally cracked his window?”
Or, a father might call his son and say, “You know, son, I was
flipping through the channels on TV the other day and saw a show on
bass fishing. We haven’t done that in years. I sure would love to go
back up to the lake with you sometime this summer. It would be so good
to spend some time with you, just you and me and the fish.” Evoking
these positive feelings and memories can be a powerful way to
undermine cult programming. However, be cautious about overusing this
technique and thus arousing suspicion.
By staying in close contact with the cult member, and pooling
information gathered by other family members and friends on the rescue
team, you can create effective strategic messages. For example, a cult
member tells an old friend that they really miss skiing, and that
friend tells the other team members. The cult member’s family might
then plan a family ski trip, and invite both the cult member and the
friend. The cult member may think it is coincidental, or perhaps even
spiritually destined. Even if the cult doesn’t allow them to go, the
invitation will stir a strong desire within them.
Whenever you communicate with the cult member, always concentrate
on just one or two points each time. It is better to make one point
thoroughly than to try a shotgun approach.
Follow-up is critical. For example, suppose you hear one of the
group’s leaders say on television that members can go home to visit
whenever they want. You might e-mail the cult member a message like
this: _Hey, remember a few months ago when people told you that it
would bad to ask permission to visit? I just saw Rev. Josiah on TV and
he said anyone could go home to visit at any time. I’m so happy about
this—and so glad he said it publicly. So when can you come visit?_ If
they don’t respond to this point in their next phone call or letter,
ask them about it again. Gently but firmly point out the
contradiction: _Was Rev. Josiah being untruthful? Did you
misunderstand? Help me understand, because I’m confused._ In a
non-threatening tone, force the cult member to have to think about the
Too many people make really good points but don’t follow up with
them. Perhaps they find it difficult to ask the follow-up question in
a non-threatening tone—one that forces the cult member to have to
think about the contradiction.
Above all, _don’t send the cult member unsolicited articles_ that
are critical of their group, as Roger Marlowe did. This typically does
more harm than good.
Remember to be yourself—stay in character. The person will be
suspicious if you act differently from your usual self. In any case,
why should you act differently? You are gathering information, but you
are also maintaining your relationship with someone you care about.
Do your best, and don’t worry about making mistakes. If you feel
like you’re walking on eggshells, or that you have to weigh your every
word and action, you will incapacitate yourself. Mostly be yourself,
keep your eyes and ears open, and pay attention to what you see and
hear. If you do make some mistakes, keep learning from them, and over
time you will be effective.
Since every situation is different, no one book can possibly cover
everyone’s particular needs. Under ideal circumstances, someone who
recognizes that a friend or loved one is becoming a member of a
destructive cult will immediately seek out professional assistance.
The important point is this: _don’t delay_.
If you know someone in a cult, start planning the process of
helping them now.
What would you do if they called you tonight and told you they
wanted to come for a long visit tomorrow? As surprising as it sounds,
this happens quite often. Usually, it is a thinly disguised appeal for
help. Ideally, you will be ready to move forward with rescue efforts
as soon as you hang up the phone.
The best thing you can do is to start preparing for such a possibility now.
Endnotes for Chapter 9
169. Also known as Messianic Communities. One of their popular
businesses is the Yellow Deli restaurants. Former members complain of
child labor trafficking, corporal punishment and lack of adequate
medical treatment, especially during childbirth. See web site by
former members at http://www.twelvetribes-ex.com/ and
More information about the cypherpunks